type; kind; sort; style.
a class or category of artistic endeavour
(attempt) having a particular
form, content, technique, etc.
-external appearance of a clearly defined area, as distinguished from colour or material the way
something is formed/constructed/put together
-the subjects or topics covered
-the manner and ability with which an artist, writer, dancer,
athlete, or someone employs the technical skills of a particular art or field
-method of performance; way of accomplishing.
What is theory?
Theory is a system to try to understand and explain things from a
specific point of view or perspective.
Theories evolve and develop over time through debate and
exchange of ideas.
Example, one person has an idea to explain something, then someone else criticized that point of view and this develops into
discussion and debate. Over time it may be questioned therefore theories can be a chain of events of ideas and responses.
Theory provides interesting and exciting ways to look at
texts, gain understanding, interpretation, appreciation and
In conclusion – there is not 1 correct ‘answer’, there are many
different ways to examine a subject; theories.
Feminist theory – examines the experience and
representations of women in texts; think of how
its changed over time:
Looking at a film from a feminist theory to
analyse the representation of women
Other examples of theory:
all things have a genre, this is a way to study texts and audience response
genre needs recognizable elements/conventions before we can identfy it as
“is what we collectively believe it to be”
semantics/syntax - genre has become to preoccupied with semantics
(signs/iconography) rather than CONTEXTS
genre offers audiences a set of pleasures
There are other ways to classify films (other than drama, action, etc.)
all genres have a subgenre
genre is abstract
uses and gratifications theory
industries use genre to sell products to audiences
genres go through typical cycle of changes during their lifetime
genre not given by culture.....in constant process of negotiation and change
genres are processes of systemisation - they change over time
‘Genre’ is a critical tool that helps us study
texts and audience responses to texts by
dividing them into categories based on
common elements. Chandler
Common elements = conventions
Theory = all things have a genre, this is a
way to study texts and audience response
ALL GENRES HAVE A PURPOSE – example horror:
To frighten/disgust the audience
Create negative emotional reactions by playing on
primal fears and vulnerabilities
Terror of unknown
Fear of death/injury
Startle the viewer (key scenes)
Cause dread or alarm
Invoke worst hidden fears
Yet…..Captivate and entertain!
Here are basic film genres
Give examples of genre in film.
-How do you know the films fit under a specific genre?
-What makes them that genre?
What is the chicken n egg dilemma?
How can we relate this to genre?
Question: How do you firstly categorise genre?
First you must categorize a film as
‘western’….but you must do this after you have
watched other films…..dilemma!
an you categorise before films exist? But
There is a similar dilemma with Genre….
“To take a genre such as the western, analyse it, and list its
principle characteristics (conventions) is to beg the question
that we must first isolate the body of films that are Westerns.
But they can only be isolated on the basis of the ‘principle
characteristics’, which can only be discovered from the films
themselves after they have been isolated.” (1974)
“If we want to know what a western is, we must look at certain
kinds of films. But how do we know which films to look at until
we know what a western is?’ (1970)
Commonly recognizable formal elements and common features
(conventions) need to be identified before we can identify the genre.
Most spectators (audiences) are familiar with the concept of established
genre ex ‘horror’. It’s characteristics cannot be manipulated by critics;
they are what the audience collectively believe them to be. However
different cultures may have different views because of different
“genre is what we collectively believe it to be”
Therefore genre can be ineffective and unreliable as there can be many
Actually defining a genre is naturally problematic
▪ E.g. What is the difference between an Action/Adventure film and a Thriller?
Or between a thriller and a Horror film?
Is Seven a Thriller, a Horror film, or a Film Noir?
▪ Is Film Noir a genre?
Familiarity causes agreement/understanding
Conventions function as agreement between:
author + audience
for what to expect in a genre
In a survey, the horror genre had the most agreed components than any other genre
Sense of horror
Normal situations turning into death situations
Blood & gore
Presence of supernatural
Iconic symbols of horror:
These icons still exist in modern films but they evolve over time according to the era and audience (what terrified
an audience 10 years ago does not terrify one now as the world is different)
When conventions become predictable it’s because
they are consistently or over used
BUT, genres are meant to be predictable because it is a set
pattern that audiences like and identify with ……..it is
successful if it registers meaning with an audience
It must be consistent, but not a carbon copy (original)
Successful = familiarity + novelty (newness)
But if they are disrupted, this can affect audience
Example: Western genre
19th century American West
(time period, general location)
saloons and rolling plains /prairies
(buildings, specific locations, =
details of these – what do they look like?
Example: basement in isolated house which
is run down)
Clint Eastwood, John Wayne
(lighting, music, cinematography (the art of film-making))
Deeper level of analysis = read layers in film production such as lighting and sound.
Example: FILM NOIR = Chiaroscuro lighting
HORROR FILMS = high pitched strings & Point of view shots to keep audience scared and on edge of seat, close up
shots to capture the emotion/fear/facial expression of character to either scare of thrill the audience
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT7a8Gv9qdA = psycho shower scene = high pitched, fast paced, intense music
Many theorists use different terms to discuss these formal elements; Rick Altman = SEMANTICS. Formal elements
are within the narrative (way story is told) therefore it would be odd to place them inappropriately, example = UFO in
wild west or tap dancing in a thriller.
Genre theory has become too preoccupied with semiotics
(signs, iconography, meaning) rather than considering the historical emergence
of genre movies. Theory ignores the fact that generic definitions were first
introduced by the industry.
In ignoring historical context there is no recognition for understanding how and
why genre develop, mutate and rise and fall in popularity and audience is
SEMANTICS = This is concerned with the conventions of the genre that
communicate to the audience such as characters, locations, props, music, shooting
style and other signifiers
SYNTAX = This is concerned with the relations between these elements and the
structure of narratives in genres. Relevance of the overall meaning and purpose.
E.g. In a romantic comedy we expect the potential lovers to begin by not liking each other
There are then a series of meetings/problems (enigmas) which end in their successful reunion/relationship
(iconography in this)
Jazz, guns, suits,
flappers, violence, social
class, police oppression
Immigrant life, little Italy,
opera, guns, drugs,
mafia, violence, police,
Inner-city ghetto, gang
culture, rap, drugs, guns,
Alcohol and criminal
action will lead to
downfall of American
Exploitation (abuse) of
Critique of American
Celebration of the antihero.
values of materialism.
Exploitation (abuse) of
Critique of American
Exposing the failings of
American race relations
which results in
(isolation) of certain
Exploitation (abuse) of
Critique of American
Boys ‘n the Hood
Write down your answer:
Do you think it is as simple as classifying films
into those few genres (action/horror/drama
Why or why not? Give examples in your
They are broad enough to accommodate practically any film ever
made, although film categories can never be precise. By isolating the
various elements in a film and categorizing them in genres, it is
possible to easily evaluate a film within its genre and allow for
meaningful comparisons and some judgments on greatness.
Films were not really subjected to genre analysis by film historians
until the 1970s. All films have at least one major genre, although there
are a number of films that are considered crossbreeds or hybrids
(mixtures/fusions) with three or four overlapping genre (or sub-genre)
types that identify them.
Sub-genres are genres that combine or share elements or characteristics of multiple genres.
Sub-genres seem inevitable that films (and genre) are ever changing and evolving; they don’t stay
They develop their OWN familiar codes/conventions/elements/characteristics to make meaning
to an audience
Example: THRILLERS (which are made to create intense thrill, suspense, anticipation and
excitement on audience)
There are many reasons for this = Why do you think?
There are different TYPES of thrillers….action thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, crime thrillers
(natural/weather, alien, creature, accident, planets/apocalyptic, criminal/terrorist,disease/zombie
All genres have sub genres (genre within a
This means that they are divided up into
more specific categories.
Hybrid: fusion, mixture or crossbreed
Hybrid genres are the fusion/merge of multiple
genres that fuse together to make a new entity
They further develop their OWN familiar
make meaning to an audience (complex at this
Shawn of the dead = british + horror + zombie + parody
Avatar = action, family, sci-fi, drama, romance
Hybrid of action/adventure
Swashbuckler = originally from small shield a swordsman carried (he was called a buckler)
Tradition was he was a poor fighter who covered his lack of skill with noise/bragging; therefore
swashbuckler was an insult.
Over years, Hollywood developed the swashbuckling character into a loudmouth, bragging, careless/reckless, irresponsible hero. (swaggering adventurer, daring show–off
2 subgenre examples:
Pirates & Buccaneers
Peter Pan, Pirates of Caribbean
-There were buccaneers, privateers and pirates.
All operated by seizing ships, stealing their
cargoes and killing their crews.
-Buccaneers often worked under commission for
countries (Ex British navy for Spanish)
-Pirates operate without commission. They're
Aristocrats & Knights
Three Musketeers, Robin Hood,
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the
highest social class in a society who were deemed
as noble and given certain privileges; but they are
just under royalty.
A knight is a person granted an honorary title
of knighthood by political leader for service to the
monarch or country, especially in a military capacity.
They have associations with honour, strength,
Within both subgenres, a number of recurring characters and tales are taken
from legends, mythology and class literature.
Common elements (conventions): Heroic characters
Codes of honour
Leading lady for romantic interest
Victorious/conquering exciting battle
Common messages/ideals: Brave deeds
Justice and fair play
Good vanquish (defeat) the bad (usually by swordfight which is choreographed for exciting dramatic effect rather than to show realistic swordplay)
Underlying moral message: stories expose the dangers of an all powerful elite (top) class, when given free rein
(ruling) they will exploit (abuse), and tyrannise (dictate/control) the less fortunate for materialistic gain. (basically,
higher class will dominate and use/abuse the lower class for their own selfish reasons for things they want)
Characters- pirates, sailors, captains, explorers, daughters of rich officials
Rituals- walking the plank, rum drinking (yo ho ho) hoisting/rigging, sea battles, heroic &
Locations- Caribbean, southern seas, islands
Costume- scruffy shirts, ragged trousers, shirtless men on deck, hero = long leather boots,
white sleeved shirts, cross leather straps villains = old style cavalier hat, posh
Props- skull & crossbones, parrot, gold, treasure chest, big wooden boat, cannons, sword,
gun, eye patches
Story traits - search for buried treasure, shipwrecks, kidnapping,
-code of brotherhood, outlaws breaking and disrespected establishment (laws)
-celebration of underclass rather than the corrupt elite
Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Hook, Cut throat Island, Pirates of Caribbean,
ARISTOCRATS & KNIGHTS
Characters- kings/queens/prince/princess, sorcerer/magician, swordsman, jester, wealthy land
owners, oppressed, poor common people
Rituals- duels, jousting, archery tournament, crusades, weddings, preparing for battle
Locations- castles, dungeons, towns, villages, hamlets, lairs (hidden dens) rural settings
Costume- metal armour, gauntlets, helmets, capes, robes, masks, crowns, corsets, jewellery
Props- swords, shields, coat of arms, medieval weapons, bows, arrows,
Story traits - secrecy, ransom, exile, treachery, revenge, loyalty/honour, romance, humour, hero's
in disguise rescuing damsels in distress
-Collective rather than individualism
-State vs religion
-Re-examining class divisions = stealing from rich to give to poor
-fight against corrupt establishment and oppression of the poor
-uniting the masses (even enemies) to overthrow exploitative elite
Three musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, King Arthur, Braveheart, Willow, A Knight’s
Tale, Princess Bride, Merlin, Kingdom of Heaven
Another way to approach the genre is by the
key actors who have an association with the
Example: PIRATES: Pirates of Caribbean
Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow) ‘carefree, loud-mouth hero’
Kiera Knightly heroine - ‘rich, innocent, daughter who can eventually become masculine and brave by
picking up sword and outsmarts her male counterpart ’
Richard Gere, Clive Owen (King Arthur)
Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe (Robin Hood)
Antonio Banderas (Mask/Legend of Zorro)
There are other ways to classify films:
Some genres are not classified under the ‘main
umbrellas’ but could be categorised by:
-story content (the war film),
-borrowed from literature (comedy, melodrama)
-from other media (the musical).
-performer-based (the Astaire-Rogers films)
-artistic status (the art film),
-racial identity (Black cinema),
-location (the Western)
-sexual orientation (Queer cinema).
'genre is abstract’
(not perfectly clear)
One theorist's genre may be another's sub-genre or
Basically Feurer argues genre is abstract or not clear because
there is no set or correct definition. One person may believe
what is ‘genre’ another person might see that as ‘sub genre’.
Basically, understanding institution is about understanding
▪ who produces media texts
▪ what their set of codes and values is
▪ and their relationship to us as individuals
Genres that use key components (conventions) that are
easily recognisable are particularly important….. WHY? BY
WHO? TO WHO?
Producers of generic (common) genres and conventions
depend on a certain amount of immediate communication
with the audience: to be easily comprehensible
Jason Mittell (2001) argues that industries use genre
to sell products to audiences.
Media producers use familiar codes and conventions
that very often make references to their audience
knowledge of society, other texts.
This theory argues that texts are created to sell and
make money based on products that already exist.
Example: Vampire phenomenon
List all the texts you can think of related to vampires.
Genres go through typical cycle of changes
during their lifetime
Think of how the ‘horror’ genre has changed
over past 50 years…….
genre not given by culture.....in constant
process of negotiation and change
Similar to metz – always evolving (depends
on the world/audiences etc)
genres are processes of systemisation - they
change over time
Also similar to metz/buckingham
The way we define ‘films’ and film genre is
always changing….now ‘horror’ is quite
broad….we could classify films is so many
What is audience?
Why is audience an important in media?
What factors must we consider if we analyse
You can’t have a text without an audience!
Successful genre = register meaning with
Similar films will follow, thus conventions
Think of the success of paranormal activity and
the impact its had on horror/thriller genres
Audience = the
group who will view, participate or
observe a text
There is a relationship between genre and audience
Why do audiences find genres satisfying?
(intended or not)
Genre could be a means of satisfying an audience:
Audiences develop an understanding that certain expectations
may be fulfilled and they may find pleasure in predicting what
will happen next
Audiences know what to expect from a genre but at the same
time want some variations to prevent dissatisfaction and even
Thus any text in a genre is a combination of the familiar and the
unexpected (inevitable lead into subgenre/hybrids)
Things to consider about audience:
(babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, young adult, adult, OAP)
(asian, white, black, latino etc)
(lower class (severe poverty), working class (near poverty), lower middle
(average income), upper middle (above average income), upper (high
***(see next slide for categories)
(clubs, photography, boating, swing dancing, rowing, tattoos)
(sporty, goth/emo, religion, punk, rocker, hippie)
(straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual)
(country, part of country, city/town….irish/north/south/dublin/belfast)
(mother, carer, teacher, student, business, author, etc.)
Mass Audience = appeals/targeted to a wide variety of people (x factor or blockbuster films)
Niche audience = appeals/targeted to a smaller specific group of people (chick flicks or indie films)
Higher managerial, administrative or professional
Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional
Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional
Skilled manual workers
Semi and unskilled manual workers
Casual or lowest grade workers, pensioners and others who depend on the state for
Lower Managerial and
C1 and C2
Small Employers and non
C1 and C2
Lower Supervisory and
C1 and C2
Semi Routine Occupations
Higher Professional and
Long term unemployed
MALES – sci/fi, action/adventure, gangster, war
FEMALES – musicals, chick flicks, love story/romance
Genre depends on what audience expects to see
Example: you pay to see a romantic-comedy, with anticipation of light-hearted entertainment, warm/feel
The industry is totally aware of audience and aims to make films to satisfy our expectations (needs/wants)
Marketing of films plays on our knowledge of genre
Consider movie posters = not just title, denotation/connotation of images (iconography)
However, iconography is dependant on our exposure to media texts (we acquire knowledge/understanding/familiarity over
time of seeing a variety of similar images)
Remember the film industry is a business (especially main stream films): its aims are to firstly make money! They adhere to
genre restrictions because they will sell because they are familiar & recognisable for MASS audiences – it’s a tried and
tested way of securing investments to be able to make films
More independent labels might have different aims; more artistic for different NICHE audiences
Genre also allows audiences to make choices
about what products they want to consume
through acceptance in order to fulfil a
Theorist Rick Altman (1999) argues that
‘genre offers audiences ‘a set of pleasures’.
can also be linked to Denis McQuail’s (1972)
theory on ‘uses and gratifications’
USE = for people to use media texts
GRATIFICATION = people get gratification from using media texts
(Gratification = satisfaction, indulgence, fulfilment, delight, pleasure)
Basically, ‘uses & gratifications’ theory is a
theory that argues that media texts are made
to satisfy the needs and desires of it’s
Why do people use/seek the media?
-finding out about relevant
events and conditions in
society and the world
-seeking advice on practical
matters or opinion and
-satisfying curiosity and
-gaining a sense of security
-finding reinforcement for
-finding models of behaviour
-identifying with valued
other (in the media)
-gaining insight into one's
-gaining insight into
circumstances of others;
-identifying with others and
gaining a sense of
-finding a basis for
conversation and social
-having a substitute for reallife companionship
-helping to carry out social
-enabling one to connect
with family, friends and
-escaping, or being diverted,
(basic/essential) cultural or
There are many different theories, is one
‘correct’? Why/why not?
As a conclusion, it is fair to say, it is not clear
to define what type a genre a film belongs